Spirit Lines

Native American weavers have a tradition of putting a spirit line, or spirit thread, into their work. This is a single line/thread that is obviously out of place, in every piece of their work. This line always flows to the outer edge of the project. Every bit of the rug or other creation will be flawless, what many would consider perfection, except for this one line that is obviously out of place. Not knowing about a spirit line, one might ask, “Why would such a mistake be so common with such skilled crafters?” The answer is that it is intentional. The spirit line is part of a belief that one must leave an exit for their creative spirit to flow out of the piece of art or work so that they may continue to have new ideas and growing levels of skill. The spirit line is welcome to happen unintentionally, but with the skill portrayed by these craftspeople, it is equally likely to be intentional. The spirit line also leaves the artisan with a piece that is nearly perfect, but not quite, enabling them to always have some room to grow. This way they can never truly be seen as having reached their peak of skill.

Since our split as a crew a little while back, I have been hiking slower (about 15-20 miles per day) and have spent a few more days in town relaxing and attempting to let my body rest and recover. The miles have been increasingly more beautiful as I travel north and it has been a very different experience to hike alone. Keep in mind that while hiking on the AT one is never truly alone, as other hikers are always somewhere nearby, but the experience of travelling solo with no expectations to meet except my own is what I’m getting at. Not that we had any ridiculous expectations as a crew, but a person feels so much more free internally when it is known that no one is expecting you.

My experience in the White Mountain National Forest and along the numerous exposed ridgelines within this forest was of the highest quality. Even lucky enough to have clear views from every ridgeline and mountain peak, including Mt. Washington. Mt. Washington is known to have some of the most challenging weather in North America, so to be there with relatively clear skies and enjoy the view seemed to be quite a well-timed experience. Challenges along those ridges did include temperatures that dropped as low as 34 degrees Fahrenheit, sustained wind speeds between 45-60 miles per hour with gusts of 67 mph, and one thunderstorm cell that chased me off the ridge to safety in the trees. Standing upon an exposed ridge with a thunderstorm moving in, watching rain and hail fall below me toward the mountainside, only to be caught by the wind and carried up and over the ridge where I stood was quite an amazing sight.

As the days and months have carried on, aches and pains have become an unavoidable part of life that any thru-hiker can attest to. Everyone has the beginnings (if not worse) of plantar fasciitis and some have metatarsalgia (also known as a stone bruise) affecting their feet. Some hikers have dealt with knee, ankle, or hip issues for much of the trail, while others are just now becoming affected, myself included. While descending the steep ridges in the last stretch of New Hampshire I have developed a tearing (and very painful) sensation in my right knee that concerns me. For the desire to continue doing adventures such as this throughout my future I have decided to finish my hike at the border of Maine so I do not further harm my knee. While I realize this may disappoint some, I am satisfied with the experience as it is. On a positive note, this way I will have a reason to come back to Maine and hike the remainder of the AT in the coming years. With less than 300 miles remaining, I weave my spirit line into this journey so that I may continue to have experiences such as this in the years to come.

Happy trails,


  1. Awesome Paul ... thanks for sharing your last weeks on the trail. Sounds like it was quite an adventure. All three member of the Packing It Out team had physical challenges during the final days, it seems. Just hope that you recover fully!

    God bless!


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